As the new year sets in, it is practically paradise for every shopaholic out there. But even as we spend huge amounts of money shopping for ourselves and our loved ones, it’s a good idea to kick off this tax year with some shopping intelligence as well. It’s never too late to start shopping smarter, because in the end it’s all about making your money count, right down to the last penny. Here’s how you can start shopping smarter this tax year:
Say Yes to Cash
Cash is not only a way to escape the stranglehold of credit card companies, it also makes the act of spending your hard-earned money more personal. Cards detach us from the whole concept of exchanging money for goods and services, because you can simply swipe the plastic and buy anything and everything that catches your eye. Paying in cash, on the other hand, makes the exchange of money more real and is bound to make you think twice about the purchase. The next time you plan to go shopping, leave your cards at home and simply carry a set amount of cash you feel comfortable spending. Cards have a way of tricking you into thinking the money is never going to run out. The number one rule of shopping smarter is to evaluate the real value of the product and using cash is one of the easiest ways to get real about your spending.
Use Mobile Apps for Shopping
There are tons of mobile apps out there now which allow you to scan a product and get reviews, ratings and other information instantly. Some of the most popular apps in the shopping category are AisleBuyer, RedLaser, Decide and Google Goggles. These apps help users choose products better both online and offline. One of the most commonly used apps, AisleBuyer, allows you to scan the product’s barcode to get information about it, including consumer reviews and recommendations. It uses consumer shopping history and store user receipts to give a shopper a heads up regarding discounts, coupons and offers on the product. We often resort to consumer reviews and recommendations when it comes to things like food or movies, so why not shopping? Shopping smarter is all about making better choices, and mobile apps can help you do just that. The next time you consider buying something because you like it, or because it’s on sale, consider using one of these apps to make a more informed choice.
Don’t Always Fall for Free
Freebies are highly misleading sales tactics. In a research study conducted under behavioral psychologist Dan Ariely, shoppers at a mall were asked to choose between a free $10 gift certificate and a $20 certificate for $7. An overwhelming majority of people went for the free gift certificate even though the $20 exchange would have left them with more money. Freebies attract us because of the whole idea of having to pay nothing at all for something, even if an alternative option makes more sense. When shopping, always be careful about the freebies you choose, or get along with your purchase. Sometimes your brain might be tricking you into spending more than you planned in exchange for a free extra (Buy 2, get one free!) Some stores will even offer freebies by inflating the price of the item you’re buying, so you’re actually paying for both. Do your research and remember that companies don’t give money away for free; they’re definitely making an exchange of some kind, whether you can see it or not.
Get Directly to What You Want
This is especially true for online shopping addicts. When shopping at a website such as Amazon or eBay, we have the habit of using category links that start from All Departments and then move onto narrower options such as movies, books, shoes, apparel etc. It has been found that people who use these links to find what they want are more likely to make impulse purchases and end up spending more than they should. Instead, no matter what you want, always use the search box – type in whatever you are looking for and then head directly to the results instead of meandering through the entire online catalogue and adding ten other unnecessary items to your shopping cart. This method can be used even while shopping offline. For example, If you’re heading to the supermarket to buy cereal, head straight to that section and pick out what you want instead of roaming all over and buying things just because. In this regard, super stores and multibrand retail stores give us more variety, which is why is it important to decide what you want beforehand, use lists if necessary and head straight to the department you need.
Have a Good Shopping Partner
Shopping alone for groceries, or buying clothes at a mall, it’s always advisable to have a friend along with you if you think you’re prone to overspending. This person can help you decide if something is worth the money you are about to spend, or if the clothes you’re buying are flattering and worth the investment. Choose your shopping partner wisely – it should be someone you trust enough to give you not just an honest opinion, but one that will ultimately help you. He/she should be someone who knows your spending habits and your spending goals rather than someone who will urge you to splurge and treat yourself. On the other hand, if you’re used to shopping with a group of people who spend lavishly and sometimes mindlessly, then go solo for a change.
Learn to Evaluate Need
Last, but definitely not least, start evaluating need along with value of the products in your basket. Whether you’re buying something for yourself or buying a gift for another person, always think about where the item can be used. Think about whether or not the gift is useful or if your friend already has enough purses to be getting on with. Similarly, if you know you will not be wearing that fancy pair of boots very often because they aren’t ideal for everyday wear, then don’t buy them. Spending money on something you might wear one out of fifty two weeks a year isn’t practical. Consider need even above value – just because something great is on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Start evaluating need no matter how big or small the purchase. It’s all about making your money count and buying something that can be put to good use in your day to day life.